GPS – Window To The Soul

GPS - Window To The Soul


Release date: August 28, 2006

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When Geoff Downes decided to rejoin the original Asia line-up, he left his present three bandmates with a handful of material already written for a new album, and a set of white sheets to play upon. Instead of claiming rights for the Asia name, this trio took it upon themselves to become GPS. The name is made up from their initials: Govan, Payne, and Schellen. Recruiting Ryo Okumoto (Spock’s Beard) to lay down some keys for their debut album, they have formulated a new Progressive Melodic Rock force.

The Music

“Progressive” is perhaps not the first term that springs to mind when listening to this, mostly due to the strong sense of melody and song found throughout the CD. Fans of Asia will definitely recognize this melodic feeling, yet there is more to it … a harder or rougher edge, perhaps. John Payne sounds less polished and is more upfront, along with a fresh, innovative (yet quite traditional) guitar style confidently handled by Guthrie Govan.

Take opening song, “Window To The Soul” starts softly with keyboards (way out there) and John Payne singing through something like a radio filter. It’s so soft, you’re bound to twist the volume knob considerably clockwise and then — ROARRRR: Okumoto’s snarling Hammond leads onto a pounding groove with Govan’s guitars chopping it into mouthfuls together with Schellen’s firm drums. It’s a brilliant introduction to a brilliant song.

There are other goodies onboard, as well. “New Jerusalem,” “The Objector,” and “Taken Dreams” are all splendid compositions. But, then there are songs like “I Believe In Yesterday” and “Since You’ve Been Gone,” which more than anything resembles someone else’s highlights of the past. It sometimes sounds like a Bluesy, Hard Rock tune of the 1970’s, sometimes like a Melodic Rock chorus of the 1980’s, and sometimes like a soft Progressive Rock passage of the 1990’s. None of these songs are really lame, they just lack the convincing spirit of their “album-mates.”

The Band

John Payne puts a slightly different spin to his vocal work with GPS, as opposed to when with Asia. His bass style remains much the same, but he somehow sounds more vivid. Perhaps this is because of a stronger presence of guitarist Guthrie Govan. His solo towards the end of the weaker track “I Believe In Yesterday” is blistering, by the way. Drummer Jay Schellen also plays with ease, thrust, and presence, yet he remains his quite usual discrete self … and then there’s Mr Okumoto, the keyboard wizard. His presence is, as usual, a substantial, cosmic force — adding the appropriate zero gravity when the music is headed for space, and adding the weight of the world, when the music is bound for a heavier, on-the-ground groove. It’s hard to imagine this record without him, in spite of the fact that most songs are founded on clever guitar riffs.

It’s absolutely worth mentioning that Payne’s harmony vocal work on this album is exceptional. He not only manages to create convincing, elaborate harmonies, but he also manages to do so with a sense that he’s not the one singing all the voices. Very few singers manage to pull that off.

It seems that with GPS, these four gentlemen have found a yet unknown vein of precious, Melodic Rock. They all thrive off each other’s contribution, justifying the “synergy” term in their label’s promotional writings. There is even a tour laid out, giving people a chance to witness this synergy on stage.

The Verdict

Window To The Soul is easy to enjoy and easily digestible. The songs have such flawless melodic motion, they take you for a ride without you ever noticing when you got on. Yet, the occasional all too familiar Melodic feel keeps this album from receiving the “instant classic” stamp. One could say the load of the past might be hard to carry into the future, even if there are many of you out there likely to treasure GPS from the very first plot.


  • Frode Leirvik

    Frode was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Norway. His headbanging experience started when his brother-in-law gave him Deep Purple’s Fireball at the age of ten. Since then, he has also been a fan of and active in several other musical genres, resulting in a deep and profound interest in music. Some of his favorites, among all of those who have somehow managed to tap into the universal force of Progressive Music are (in no particular order): Thule, Dream Theater, King Crimson,Pink Floyd, Rush, Spock’s Beard, Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, Ekseption, Focus, The Beatles, Deep Purple and Frank Zappa.

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